What is sin?
The answer can be varied depending on who is asked.
Mostly, what I was taught to believe is that sin is breaking a list of rules that God has established. Again, that list can vary.
When we get down to it, it seems we uphold the Ten Commandments as the basis of our sin dichotomy. However, if we go down that list, we quickly see that much of Western Christianity is not holding up those rules, especially when we look at Jesus’ definition of righteousness by law such as Matt 5. Another example: the Sabbath is from Friday at sundown until Saturday evening. If we aren’t remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy, we’re already breaking one of the rules. And if we break one, we break them all.
In this, we get a rather subjective list that is easily open to interpretation based on other parts of the Bible. We toss aside or change/justify what we don’t care to uphold and weaponize the rest in an attempt to beat others into submission to our standards. If we take a step back and look at this process, it’s all just comparative righteousness. We have a scale by which we weight our righteousness against others’. This is also known as self-righteousness and is prevalent in the institution we call “church” today.
So if the list is so undefinable, what is sin? If we don’t know what sin is–if there is no list that won’t contain holes—how do we avoid it? Is this even the appropriate question we should ask? Perhaps what we’ve been asking is the wrong starting point.
So let’s look at “original sin.” What was Adam and Eve’s sin? Looking at Genesis 3, it seems they wanted to know what good and evil was by their definition instead of trusting in God. This is how the serpent deceived—trust in self instead of God. Again, righteousness by human means instead of relationship with Father.
Perhaps this is the root of all sin—our trust that our way is right because of our insistence that it is, even when we state the Bible backs our conclusion. This same methodology was used all throughout the Old Testament, yet, we see constant failure by man to avoid the sin condition. Interestingly enough, it seems that even if we’re “right” about our statements, we can still be in sin because of our self-righteous attitude about it.
So far it doesn’t seem quite clear what sin is and how we avoid it.
How I’ve come to see it is, sin is anything that separates us from being in relationship with Father. Jesus came to end that separation:
“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”—Mark 1:15.
In effect, it seems Jesus was trying to get people to stop attempting a relationship with Father by rules.
If fear separates us from God, it is sin—even fear of hell.
If we believe that our rule-following justifies us, we no longer trust in Jesus as bridging that separation, or if we add addendum to Jesus’ completed work, we in turn nullify the effect of his accomplishment in our personal life.
If we try to force mandates, accountability, obligation, etc…on others, we are only propping up man made agenda and become separated from Father.
If we use intimidation, fear, guilt, shame, etc…to try to force others into a “love” relationship (what sense does that make?) we are separated from a relationship with Father.
If we’re trying to summon the Holy Spirit into our meetings by long-winded/extravagant prayer, rituals, speeches, music, etc…we deny that the Holy Spirit has been given to live in us and in turn are separated from Father.
If we trust in politics, power, finances, military might, etc…we in turn are separated from Father.
If we refuse to engage others because we consider ourselves “right” and consider them as “wrong,” we are separated from Father.
If we insist that our behavior justifies us/causes God to act—negatively or positively, we in turn are separate from Father. Example: I’m a good person so why is God punishing me with this?
None of this is Father separating us from him, but, like Adam and Eve, it is our insistence that our ways are right, and we remove ourselves from relationship with Father. Thereby, we justify ourselves because of our doings and not the completed work of Jesus. We trust in our own knowledge of good and evil and not in Life itself, which is Jesus.
In conclusion, my view of sin is anything that inhibits our relationship with Father—whether we label these things as secular or sacred. In addition, what inhibits my relationship may not inhibit another’s. Attempting to force a standardized list of religious mandates and obligations can in turn separate us from relationship with Father because of our insistence in our own righteousness by what we achieve. Jesus never forced—he invited any who would come, into a relationship with Father. This, too, is our calling as Christians—not obligation, fear, shame, hatred, accountability, religion, manipulation, mandates, etc….but just a simple invitation for others to come to know our Father through Jesus and by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
A Personal Note
Lately, I’ve been in a state of sadness, not for me personally, but for those I use to be bitter against. Truthfully, knowing I was bitter towards certain people helped some, but actually having that bitterness removed was impossible by my own means. I had to just let Jesus work in me to slowly wither it all away. Now it seems all that bitterness has been, unexpectedly, replaced with sadness. I feel like my heart is broken every time the though crosses my mind of people being misled and misleading others by the ways they present God. This has been a large part of the burden on my heart lately. However, this does place me in a better position to love those same people instead of the bitterness I use to have towards them.
Good and Evil
Sometimes it feels like we’re looking at things from the wrong angles. The Holy Spirit has to continually nudge me on this personally. We continue to define good and evil by our human viewpoint instead of trusting Father. It seems we categorize every action as good or bad, black or white, without ever stopping to consider the hurting, confused, and/or angry people caught up in these situations.
We’re still eating from the Tree of Knowledge.
We even categorize God’s actions, who is pure light, into our human conceptions of good and evil. We use all kinds of references to justify our stances. “God’s love and wrath are two sides of the same coin.” We scramble together words that only confuse to attempt to defend God as good. In turn, we don’t trust that all of God’s actions are good, because they come from the source of all goodness. If we try to justify why God did “bad” things, we defer to a humanistic view of good and evil.
We continue to eat of the Tree of Knowledge.
God is good and all that he created is good. Therefore, any action he takes, or seems to allow, is for our good. I know this can be a hard pill to swallow because we still want to define “good and bad.” Somehow, if we can categorize the two, we can justify our stances. We can then, based on these good/bad things we witness, determine who is good and going to heaven, and who is bad and going to hell.
We continue to eat of the Tree of Knowledge.
How do we know what to do? Maybe we just follow the Holy Spirit.
How do we know who is good or bad? Maybe we just follow the Holy Spirit.
How do we know who to trust? Maybe we just follow the Holy Spirit.
Maybe, just maybe, we stop eating from the Tree of Knowledge, and we start eating from The Tree of Life—we start partaking in the life and love of Jesus.